Robert Wedderburn’s ‘Universal War’

Anti-colonial universality in the Age of Revolution

Ajmal Waqif
The ideas and political commitments of the revolutionary abolitionist and Spencean Robert Wedderburn (1762-1835) represent a compelling example of a form of universality, articulated in the midst of the Age of Revolution, which defied European colonialism and plantation slavery. An engagement with Wedderburn’s writings on the Haitian Revolution, maroon warfare and his proposal of a Spencean communist programme will clarify ongoing debates about Enlightenment, empire, slavery and universality and might inform a re-engagement with the idea of universal emancipation in the political present.

Reduced to Brutish Nature

On Racism and the Law of Value

Lukas Egger
This piece is being made available as a preprint edition of the Race and Capital special issue of Historical Materialism. The final published version of this text will be made available on the Brill website in the coming months, we ask that citations refer to the Brill edition.

Steam and Stokehold

Steamship labour, colonial racecraft and Bombay’s Sidi jamAt

Tania Bhattacharyya
In the late nineteenth century freedpeople rescued from slaving boats on the Indian Ocean by British anti-slavery cruisers were sent to Bombay, where many of the young men found employment as stokers in the stokehold of P&O steamships. British administrators discussed the future of freed “Africans” strictly as profitable sources of labour. Freedpeople however went on to form their own Muslim communities or jamãt in Bombay known as Sidis or Habshis. While colonial “liberation” was bound up with ideas of race, Sidis rejected ideas of singular racial biological origin with their itinerant notion of a community descending from the Prophet. This article is a historical critique of the terms of the colonial racecraft that gives us the category of “African” and the natural division of humans into races, and an effort to read the colonial archive against the grain for the explication of a subaltern Sidi or Habshi notion of jamãt.